The PJ Tatler

Romney Opposes the Blunt Amendment? (Update: He Supports It, Media Malpractice Caused Confusion)

That’s what he told a reporter in Ohio today:

Jim Heath, a reporter for ONN-TV in Ohio, just Tweeted a remarkable piece of news: Mitt Roney told him he does not support the Blunt amendment, which would empower employers and insurers to deny health coverage they find morally objectionable.

I just got off the phone with Heath, and he graciously played me the audio. Heath asks Romney if he’s for the “Blunt-Rubio” amendment, and defines it. Romney replies:

“I’m not for the bill. But, look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”

Here’s the Blunt amendment. It would amend ObamaCare to reverse the abortifacient mandate. Romney opposes that mandate. The Senate is set to vote on the amendment tomorrow. If he really opposes the amendment, he owes Republican voters an explanation.

It may be, as Ace hopes, that Romney simply didn’t know which amendment he was addressing in the question. Or Romney could have been saying that he opposes ObamaCare itself. It is a bit confusing, since Rubio has a separate bill up on the mandate and the reporter’s question combined the two efforts into one. We don’t yet have the full audio of the exchange. But if Romney didn’t know the details of the amendment or didn’t get the question, he should have answered as such and told the reporter he would get back with him once he had looked into it. If Romney isn’t up on what the Republicans in Congress are doing to undo the mandate, that’s not good. He should be.

Santorm and Gingrich are sure to hammer him on this.

Update: Matt Lewis reports that Romney’s camp says the question was confusing (as I suspected above) and that Romney supports the Blunt amendment.

Responding to my request for comment, Romney’s spokesperson Andrea Saul emailed me this to clarify:

Regarding the Blunt bill, the way the question was asked was confusing. Governor Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith.

The reporter basically misstates what the amendment would do, so the confusion is the fault of the media doofus.

More here. Media malpractice at its finest. And for that, we should thank Josh Marshall protege Greg Sargent. Sargent is an alum of the Talking Points Memo school of using whispers and innuendo when facts just won’t do. He’s the WaPost blogger who wrote just enough of a post about this to turn it into a story, and his strategic incuriosity added fuel to the story.

Here’s the actual exchange between Romney and the reporter:

HEATH: “He’s brought contraception into this campaign. The issue of birth control, contraception, Blunt-Rubio is being debated, I believe, later this week. It deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception. Have you taken a position on it? He (Santorum) said he was for that, we’ll talk about personhood in a second; but he’s for that, have you taken a position?”

ROMNEY: “I’m not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”

The Blunt amendment does not allow employers to “ban providing female contraception.” It allows them to opt out of covering contraception in their insurance plans for conscience reasons, which was the status of things until the ObamaCare mandate came down from Sebelius’ HHS. Big difference.